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August 2009 Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource Highlights Health Care Dollars, Senses of Taste and Smell, and Emotional Eating

Investments to Stretch Health Care Dollars

ROCHESTER, Minn., Aug. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Here are highlights from the August issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource. You may cite this publication as often as you wish. Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource attribution is required. Reprinting is allowed for a fee. Include the following subscription information as your editorial policies permit: Visit or call toll-free for subscription information, 800-876-8633, extension 9751.

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Because of the costs, many Americans are thinking twice before seeking health care or filling a prescription. Even people with health insurance are paying more as premiums rise and employers pay less of the bill.

The August issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource offers tips to save money by working closely with care providers, being informed about insurance, price shopping for prescriptions, avoiding hospital stays when possible, and taking steps to stay well. Money-saving ideas include:

With providers:

  • Ask in advance about fees, including an estimate of the total expenses for your care. Check with the insurance company about what's covered.
  • Ask the doctor to be a partner in reducing costs. The care provider might avoid duplicating tests or suggest lower-cost treatment options.
  • Use nurse lines. Many health plans, hospitals and some medical practices offer services where patients can call for medical advice. Talking with a nurse may be especially helpful when it's unclear if a medical appointment is needed.

On insurance:

  • Pay premiums annually. Many policies offer discounts when premiums are paid on time and in full.
  • Read the benefits information to make sure the insurer is paying for everything that's covered. If it appears that a claim has been denied in error, appeal the decision.
  • Look for special services and extras, such as discounts on gym memberships, weight-loss programs and medical equipment rental.

On medications:

  • Choose generic. They have the same active ingredients as brand-name drugs and cost less.
  • Shop around. Prices vary from one pharmacy to another.
  • Split pills if possible. The co-pay may be the same for a higher-dose prescription as for a lower dose. Check with the prescribing physician about this option.

On hospital care:

  • Avoid the emergency department unless it's absolutely necessary. Instead, consider a nurse line or urgent care. For those without insurance, try to find a clinic with sliding-scale fees.
  • Use outpatient services when possible. Tests and procedures that can be done without an overnight hospital stay cost less.

On staying well:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight helps prevent and control serious and costly health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.
  • Give up expensive and unhealthy habits. Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable death and illness in the United States. Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
  • Make the basics for good health a priority. Floss and brush teeth daily. Use seat belts and bike helmets. Wear sunscreen. Wash hands frequently with soap and water.

Treatments Available for Diminished Senses of Taste And Smell

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- When flowers aren't fragrant and spicy foods don't zing, the senses may be impaired.

But don't assume that diminished senses of taste and smell are due to aging, says the August issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource. Many smell and taste disorders can be treated, or possibly reversed, depending on the underlying cause.

With a smelling disorder, patients may experience total or partial loss of smell. Or, one may "smell" bad odors that aren't present. The sense of smell gradually declines with age. Often, the change is not noticeable. When smell disorders occur suddenly or are obvious, there's likely a medical reason.

Causes can include upper respiratory infections, such as sinusitis; brain tumors; brain injury; nasal polyps; hormonal disturbances; or dental problems. Prolonged exposure to certain chemicals, such as insecticides, may impair smell. Some medications and medical treatments, such as radiation, also can affect smell. In some cases, a loss of smell can be an early sign of multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease.

Taste disorders are uncommon. When they occur, the reason could be some of the same conditions that cause impaired smelling. This includes upper respiratory infection, head injury, disease and some cancer treatments. Gum disease is another possible cause. Medications, including cholesterol-lowering drugs, antibiotics, blood-pressure medications, antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are the most frequent cause of diminished taste or even a bad taste in the mouth.

Diagnostic tests can measure the extent of smell and taste disorders and help identify the causes. Treatment is focused on the underlying cause. Occasionally, it's possible to have a spontaneous recovery, which occurs when damaged smell or taste nerves regenerate.

Tips to Stop Emotional Eating (Because Food Doesn't Fix Stress)

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- For emotional eaters, food is a best friend, there to boost sprits, calm stress and alleviate boredom.

But according to the August issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource, emotional eating often leads to eating too much, especially high-calorie, sweet, salty and fatty foods. Women are especially prone to emotional eating -- and then feel guiltier and less healthy than men do after snacking on "forbidden" foods.

The connection between stress and eating likely has roots in brain chemistry. Faced with a real threat, the fight-or-flight reaction kicks in and suppresses appetite temporarily. But when faced with persistent stress -- health problems, difficult relationships or too much work -- many people turn to high-fat, high-calorie foods for comfort. Using food as a coping strategy doesn't alleviate stress and will likely cause weight gain.

Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource offers these suggestions to understand and overcome emotional eating:

  • Learn to recognize true hunger: A craving for chips or cookies soon after a meal is likely an emotional hunger, not real hunger.
  • Identify the food triggers: Keeping a journal can help identify patterns in emotional eating, including emotions and feelings when eating; what and how much was eaten; and feelings after eating.
  • Look elsewhere for comfort: Instead of grabbing a candy bar, take a walk, call a friend, listen to music, read or treat yourself to a movie.
  • Manage stress in a healthy way: The goal is to lower stress with healthful strategies, including regular exercise, adequate rest and support from friends and family.
  • Practice mindful eating: Mindfulness is a way of paying focused attention without judgment. Applied to eating, this technique can help increase awareness of the sensations, feelings and thoughts connected with food and eating.
  • Toss out the unhealthy foods: Avoid stocking the cupboard or refrigerator with high-calorie comfort foods. Consider more healthful comfort foods: a bowl of tomato soup or a cup of tea.
  • Eat a balanced diet and healthy snacks: Between meals, opt for low-fat, low-calorie snacks such as fresh fruit and unbuttered popcorn.

Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource is published monthly to help women enjoy healthier, more productive lives. Revenue from subscriptions is used to support medical research at Mayo Clinic. To subscribe, please call 800-876-8633, extension 9751, (toll-free) or visit

SOURCE Mayo Clinic
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